Even on the most amply featured laptops, available ports can quickly dwindle as you plug in digital cameras, external hard drives, mice, and other peripherals. Fortunately the StarTech USB to VGA Docking Station lets you connect several devices to your notebook via a lone USB 2.0 cord, eliminating the snakepit of cords from the immediate notebook area, and freeing up the integrated ports for even more devices.
Measuring 8.0 x 2.5 x 0.7 inches and weighing a lightweight 7.7 ounces (12.8 ounces if you factor in the AC adapter), the USB to VGA Docking Station is an all-black port extender that's highlighted by a blue power light on the top and bottom. Its perimeter is packed with ports: on the right side are headphone and mic jacks; the back houses Ethernet, VGA, four USB 2.0 ports, and an AC adapter; the left side has a USB 2.0 port that connects the station to a notebook.
Expansion and Connectivity
StarTech's Windows-only software was easy to install, and the interface consisted of an easy-to-navigate menu system that pops up when we double-clicked the icon in the toolbar. We plugged several items into the USB to VGA Docking Station's USB ports at the same time: theSanDisk Sansa View, a 1GB Kingston thumb drive, and themagicJack(which was so wide it blocked the opening of the fourth USB port). The Sansa View began charging instantly; the flash drive and magicJack were recognized by Windows Vista approximately 10 seconds later. We were able to use these items as we normally would through any other USB 2.0 connection, with no noticeable performance hit.
The full functionality of the software became apparent when we connected a 30-inch Gateway Extreme HD 1600p monitor to the USB to VGA Docking Station's VGA port. The program let us output our PC's display via USB; we could choose from a number of settings including VGA Primary (which outputted the desktop to the monitor), VGA Extend (which transformed the monitor into additional desktop real estate), and VGA Mirror (which duplicates the notebook displays on the monitor). You can also rotate the screen (70 degrees, 90 degrees, 180 degrees, 270 degrees), and select a resolution (up to 1600 x 1200/1680 x 1050 in 32 bits).
While we had no problems getting a very nice image of our desktop on the monitor, we encountered some issues. Occasionally, colors in a small area on the right side of our notebook's screen would appear scrambled, and on the external monitor we noticed that in Mirror mode a slight portion of the left side of the screen was cut off. Adjusting the resolution had no effect.
Priced at $129, the StarTech USB to VGA Docking Station does exactly what it promises: It serves up extra ports for connecting your gear. While we could've done without visual glitches, it's a solid accessory for users with notebooks that lack a sufficient number of USB ports, and who want to use an external monitor as well, without too many wires cluttering up their desk.